Coloring the Canvas

Screen Shot 2014-03-21 at 1.50.06 PMMarch is the month when my thoughts turn to the changes I wish to make to the outside of my home. Anxious to be outside in warmer temperatures, I begin looking more closely at my home as I turn in the driveway. Is it time for me to repaint the front door? How is the stain on the deck holding up? Where might I plant some new flowers? Will I give a vegetable garden another go of it this year?

With yet another winter storm in our forecast (oh please, let it go out to sea?), those of us happy to have seen spring mentioned on our calendars at the very least, continue trying to be patient as we look out our windows and see more white. We long to see the pale pink buds on the trees, and the green shoots of daffodils sprouting in our garden beds, but alas, the white canvas reminds us winter is not done with us yet.

However, when our souls need that splash of color, we can find it easily enough in our local hardware stores. A bright color of paint can be therapeutic when applied to a decorative piece, such as a chair or a small table, or we can be more brave and redo the walls in a bathroom or the family room. Of course, sometimes, as in the children’s story If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, making one change can lead to subsequent changes. One painted wall might beg for a new framed picture which could lead to rearranging the furniture which could lead to a decision to purchase a new ottoman and so on. But change can be good for the soul and, additionally, if you are thinking at all about putting your house on the market, the alterations we make to our homes can help its market value or at the very least, increase its attractiveness to the buyer.

If you are itching to make some changes, whether big or small, give some thought to the resources in your community that can help. The local libraries can point you to books and videos which can help you with the Do-It-Yourself projects. Local hardware stores carry impressive color pallet paint chips and supplies for when you’ve chosen your color. Your neighbor can surely give you the name of a reputable handyman, professional painter, plumber, or electrician. And soon our floral and tree and shrub nurseries will be advertising garden supplies.

It’s not too early to begin planning the work and the joy of spring here in southern Maine! As the snow begins to fall and as we reach for the fleece comforter, let’s turn our attention to the colors that rejuvenate our spirits. I promise you, they are coming!

–Written by: Anne Freeman Walker, a resident of Naples, Maine for the past 22 years.

Cup o’ Joe

Screen Shot 2014-03-14 at 9.16.33 PMI love coffee, I love tea

I love the java jive and it loves me

Coffee and tea and the jiving and me

A cup, a cup, a cup, a cup, a cup

So, where does one get a cup, a cup, a cup, a cup? Well, that might depend upon where and who you are! There’s a playful skirmish going on between my brother and I. On his travels around the Bangor area, he makes a daily stop for his morning breakfast and coffee at a certain coffeehouse chain that had its start in the west coast region of the United States. I, on the other hand, make regular stops at a popular northern New England coffee shop chain here in Naples, the same chain store that can also be found in Bridgton (which is Kathy’s favorite drive-thru), Raymond, Oxford, South Paris, Poland, Windham, Gray, and Standish. I go on days when the temperature drops below 10 degrees Fahrenheit, so my order can warm my hands as well as my belly. John claims his shop is the best. I support the home team. However, in all truth, when I have more time, I prefer the small businesses here in Lake Region that will offer me a sit down breakfast and a hot cup o’ Joe. There are plenty of opportunities for that caffeine jolt most of us need in the morning and everyone has his or her favorite shop, cafe, store, or restaurant that serves a great breakfast or the “world’s best cup of coffee”. There are numerous recommendations on where to go. All one has to do is ask a local! Bridgton’s Morning Glory restaurant is a favorite of mine, Ricky’s Diner is frequented by Kim and Sydney, and Beth’s Kitchen Cafe now located on Main Street near the Bridgton News building is another popular spot with “good food and a great atmosphere” say my friends Mary, Jyselle, Vicki and cousin Cathy. Heading a little east, “Danielle’s in Raymond is always good for breakfast”, says Patty. Chute’s Cafe in Casco serves up a hearty breakfast and Chute’s Coffee Shop in Windham will not disappoint either, say Chelsey, Kelsey, and Jody. Locals such as Samantha and Gayle speak highly of The Stone Dog Cafe, also in Windham. Traveling over to Gray, Belinda says Cheetah’s is her favorite, Mike says Village Store in New Gloucester is his pick, and of course, everyone knows of Cole Farms Restaurant; it’s been serving up homestyle food for 50 years!  Over in Sebago, Ellen confirms that Jordan’s Store is great, Ruby Slippers in Harrison has “great service and yummy food” says Virginia, and Norway’s Cafe Nomad’s gets rave reviews for its blueberry pancakes and “great espresso”. Surely, my brother John needs to head over to my neck of the woods here in the Lake Region of southwestern Maine. If he hurries, breakfast and coffee will be my treat!

–Written by: Anne Freeman Walker, a resident of Naples, Maine for the past 22 years.

Cheering on the Home Team

As the old saying suggests, “It takes a village to raise a child”. Living in Naples and working in Gray, having worked with teens from these towns and the neighboring towns, I have been lucky enough to get a close-up look at two different school systems in the southern and western parts of Maine and how the various array of New England towns in Maine have supported the hopes, dreams, and adventures of their young people. Although two of my children are now in college, all three of my babes attended school in the Lake Region district and having taught for 23 years in Gray-New Gloucester, I’ve witnessed the way in which the different towns of Bridgton, Casco, Naples, Sebago in SAD 61 and Gray and New Gloucester in SAD 15 have combined and consolidated their resources in attempts to maximize the opportunities offered to students. Local libraries, adult education programs, and the communities’ close proximity to a variety of colleges, universities, and extended educational programs add to the diverse education programs available. Opportunities abound for the young people in the schools of Maine. However, there is a particular quality of school districts that I have long attributed to the increase of student success–the fostering of school spirit. It has been incredibly pleasing to see the spirit within school districts in our south western Maine area. A most satisfying aspect of being involved with different school districts is witnessing the camaraderie of an entire community, no matter where the town lines fall. It’s a beautiful part of life to see first hand, just as I did last weekend when the girls Lake Region High School basketball team won the Class B State Championship. The stands were filled at the new Cross Insurance Center even though it was a good three hours away, and when the girls’ bus brought the champions home, parents, teachers, former coaches, neighbors, and other community members waved signs and balloons on the Naples Causeway cheering for the 15-18 year olds. Living where school spirit abounds, where people of all ages are excited and cheer on the achievements of the student athletes, dramatists, musicians, mathematicians, or scientists in the making is representative of what it means to live in a true community. The cheering we do today for the winning team is the service we’ll provide tomorrow for our neighbor in need. The world can sometimes be a harsh place to navigate on our own, and a long Maine winter can make us all desire to stay close to home, but when we come together, we are a strong force indeed, and if I might harbor a guess, we’re also happier for our efforts at the end of the day.

–Written by: Anne Freeman Walker, a resident of Naples, Maine for the past 22 years.